My First Day at Secondary School
To start with, having failed the 11+, I was destined to go to a Secondary Modern with an extremely poor reputation. It sounded a bit like Iraq at the height of its troubles.
With a good start to my secondary school education in mind my parents, in their great wisdom, decided to go on holiday at the beginning of September. That meant I missed the first week of my new school. After all, the start of one’s secondary education was no big deal, was it?
What a fortunate occurrence.
When we came back from holiday my friend Mutt (Charlie Mutton) came round and said I was enrolled in his class. Well, Charlie was at an altogether better school – a bilateral (early comprehensive) which catered for all abilities and had a far better reputation.
Immediately my Mum tuned in. That Saturday afternoon I was forcibly taken into town to purchase a new uniform. On the Monday I was off to my new school – the one Mutt was in. By some clerical glitch I had been enrolled at two schools!
What a farce.
But not quite as much of a farce as my first day.
That Monday morning I was dressed in my new uniform – cap, blazer, shirt, tie, shorts, knee-length socks and shiny black shoes. Boy did I look neat. My Mum lovingly licked her fingers and patted my hair down.
I looked pristine.
Mutt took me in.
Rather sheepishly I edged into my form room. There was only one space and it was right at the back. It involved me edging around the other boys. My form room was in the Technical Drawing Room. The tables were arranged in a line round the edge of the room.
Our kind Form Tutor, Mr Cox, had provided homemade pencil sharpening devices for his Technical Drawing classes. They consisted of a piece of sandpaper glued to a board. These were hung on nails all around the form room. Unfortunately the nails were at shoulder height. My first experience, while edging about the other seated boys, was to snag my new blazer on a protruding nail and rip a segment out of it. For the rest of the day I had a triangular flap of material dangling down from my shoulder.
One minute in and no longer pristine.
It didn’t stop there.
Our first lesson was Art. As a Year 1 class we had Art on the stage. It was quite a way from the Art Block. My teacher asked for volunteers to get the materials needed from the Art Block. Foolishly I volunteered.
Four of us went over to collect the paints, brushes and paper.
The paint was Tempora powder paint. Our teacher had had the brilliant idea of putting it in baking trays. You know – the ones with wells. Each different colour was piled up in a separate well.
I carried about eight of these trays piled one upon the other.
We carefully made our way out of the Art Block, down the road, to the door into the building with the assembly hall and stage.
I carefully mounted the steps and even more carefully negotiated the tricky door. With confidence and vigour I set off towards the short flight of steps that led to the stage. Unfortunately I was not used to mats in sunken door wells. As I strode forward my foot caught the rim of the well and I tripped.
I went flying and fell flat on my face. The eight trays of powder paint headed for the ceiling. Gravity intervened. They headed back to earth. The ground intervened. There was a resulting crash that closely resembled an explosion.
The powder paint, being light, flew up into the air in a great, thick cloud. Gravity intervened. The powder began to settle.
From my perspective there was a loud despairing scream (me) closely followed by a massive clattering (the trays), then I was enveloped by a huge cloud. It felt as if I was a magnet for this cloud. By the time I picked myself up it appeared to have settled all over me.
The noise attracted the whole class, who, along with my Art teacher, rushed down the stairs to see what had caused the commotion.
I slowly stood up, covered from head to toe in paint dust. I registered everyone staring at me in horror and I started to cry.
As the tears rolled down my cheeks they transformed into rainbows.